Study Finds Most Marijuana Edible Products Have Incorrect Information on Labels

By McCarton Ackerman 06/25/15

Less than a quarter of the products analyzed had accurate information.

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Marijuana edibles typically include labels that advise users on the potency of the product, but a new study has found that the bulk of these labels are wildly inaccurate.

An analysis of 75 marijuana edible products sold to patients in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles found that just 17% of the labels accurately described their levels of THC. About 23% of the products had more THC than advertised, while 60% had less. One product had three milligrams of THC, but its label claimed it had 108 milligrams.

“What we have now in this country is an unregulated medical marijuana industry due to conflicts between state and federal laws,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, the chief of hematology and oncology at San Francisco General Hospital. “We need a more accurate picture of what’s being offered to patients.”

Some ingredients were also not included on the labels. Only 13 of the products disclosed that they included cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but researchers identified detectable levels of cannabidiol in 44 of the products. Nine of these products had lower levels than advertised, while four had more.

Perhaps surprisingly, there were also geographical differences in how these labels were flawed. Rates of edible medical marijuana with more THC than advertised were higher in Los Angeles, while products with less THC than labeled were greater in Seattle.

“The point is not to say, ‘Hey, X medical marijuana company, you’re bad,’” said lead author Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The more serious issue is that we don’t have the kind of quality assurance for edibles that we have for any other medicine.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.